'The Women On The 6th Floor' Channels Almodovar Of Yore

Mar 1, 2012

Fans of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar either loved his last movie, The Skin I Live In, or found it cold and bereft of the mirth and merriment of most of his previous work.

He doesn't have a new film but Phillipe Le Guay does, and The Women on the 6th Floor plays like the farcical Almodovar of yore in a way that's more homage than copycat.

To help with the comparison, The Women on the 6th Floor even features two recurring members of Almodovar's company: actresses, Carmen Maura and Lola Duenas, playing Spanish women who've fled the Franco regime circa 1962 to work as maids for rich families in Paris. While the wealthy live as if wrapped in a cocoon of privilege and beauty, their maids live on a shared top floor in relatively shabby quarters with clogged toilets and single beds - and their employers, as venturing upstairs is an act of impropriety, are none the wiser.

This obliviousness of noblesse oblige evaporates for one man (Fabrice Luchini of Potiche) who, upon visiting the upper berths one day, finds the injustice glaring and sets a course of reparations that include hiring an overdue plumber and letting them use his phone. He even learns rudimentary Spanish in order to achieve some kind of equity that he feels is overdue. What's charming is that the maids are open to his concern, and there's a lovely scene centered around an enormous pan of paella.

While it sounds like it could be a heavy treatise, it comfortable asserts itself as a comedy of bounce and vigor seasoned with a European sensibility. Throw in a couple side plots involving the stock market, a stratified romance, and children left back home in Spain, and the result is funny, congenial, and delightful movie.  

Read Steve Walker's review of the Best Foreign Film Oscar winner, Iran's 'A Separation,' here.